Gardening: What to plant for beautiful summer borders

Aruncus and Alium

Aruncus and Alium - Credit: Archant

Standing in the sun today it was warm. Really warm, which in London in March is both unusual and very welcome.

Campanula and Astrantia

Campanula and Astrantia - Credit: Archant

As I basked in the hazy golden sun my thoughts turned to the fact that summer is really not so far away now and these warm days which are soon to be longer as the clocks alter at the end of the month mean that gardens now begin to emerge from their icy hibernation and rocket into life.

Now is an ideal time to plant a summer border and I have decided to do just that in an area of my own garden.

I would like my newly planted area to be mainly shades of white with highlights from allium.

The area I have allocated is not large, about 4m x 2m and faces almost due south. The backdrop to the new planting is an existing, mature Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ which will add contrast with its plum coloured leaves - or at least that is the plan.

Lupinus and Phalaris

Lupinus and Phalaris - Credit: Archant

With so many plants to pick from it is hard to pin down a sensible number of choices. The temptation to have one of everything I love is still very great, even after almost 40 years gardening but if I am to really harden my heart then I should start with form so, Buxus for impact – a squat low ball at each end.

A small shrub would be nice, perhaps a Philadelphus (P. ‘Belle Etolie’ would be my ideal) but I think it is going to grow too large so I opt for Rosa ‘Margaret Merril’ instead.

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At about 1.5m high and 1m wide this rose provides colour and scent in a relatively compact form from June to September and the blooms as an added bonus make wonderful cut flowers. I always think of roses as quintessentially English and so this sets the tone of the scheme.

Other plants that I will be considering are Aquilegia x hybrida ‘Green Apples‘, Lupinus ‘Noble Maiden’(if you can keep the aphids and molluscs away then lupins are a joy in the garden), Geranium phaeum ‘Album’, Campanula latifolia var. ‘Alba’, Astrantia major ‘Buckland’ and Paeonia lactiflora ‘Festiva maxima’.

I think it would be hard not to include a Peony of some sort in an early summer scheme and this particular double form has huge white flowers with plum splashes on the edges of its petals, which provide a visual link to the pink shade of the Astrantia and help link the scheme together.

As with all new planting schemes the key to long term success is in the soil preparation.

You can purchase the best plants from top nurseries but if you plant them in poor ground they will only ever be a shadow of the self they could be with good ground and added organic fertilizer.

Since the climate is now more unpredictable than ever and we do not know if we are in for a soak or a drought I tend to mulch yearly and especially new plants to help them settle in.

If the plants can survive by themselves once settled then it gives me time to not only enjoy them but to move on to other schemes, after all a garden is never complete and a gardener never happy unless they have a project in hand!